John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
Ad Blog: news and views about advertising, branding, marketing, and copywriting
January, 2004

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January 30, 2004
More somewhat wrong-headed commentary on Super Bowl advertising. Here’s an article, from The Daily Oakland Press (Oakland, CA) online edition:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Lame quote, from a spokesperson for struggling car brand DaimlerChrysler: “No event, no opportunity presents the male 18-34 demographic like the Super Bowl does.” One wonders if they’ve heard of this newfangled thing called the Internet yet?
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January 29, 2004
I’ve tried to avoid it, but commentary on Super Bowl advertising is heating up. The buzz about some commercials is so big, that the commercials themselves are bound to be anticlimactic. Here’s an article, from my hometown paper, the San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune:
Advertising copywriter blog link

See also my comment on January 23. If the buzz overshadows the commercials, and the commercials overshadow the message, is that really making the most of the selling opportunity? With the Super Bowl audience, as with any other audience, it comes down to consistency. It’s not about airing one Super Bowl commercial. It’s about establishing a tradition of Super Bowl commercials, as Anheuser-Busch has done. Then, through sheer weight of annual repetition, the advertising becomes part of the collective consciousness, just as good holiday brand advertising has done (see December 15 for more on that topic). That’s how advertising can be an effective part of a branding strategy. But, with the Super Bowl, it’s a very expensive tactic.
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January 27, 2004
The Super Bowl isn’t the only major news event attracting advertising tie-ins. There are also the Mars rover landings. Here’s the story, from the Wisconsin State Journal:
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Relating a product or service to a news event is a case of attracting viewership through borrowed interest. The real creative trick lies in repaying that interest with relevance and memorability. Do the four advertising and promotional tie-ins mentioned do that? My opinion: Spirit Airlines, yes; Long John Silver’s, no; Juniper Networks, no; Audi, yes.
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January 26, 2004
Marketing a city has its challenges, not the least of which is dealing with public opinion once word leaks out about the cost of a branding campaign. According to this story from the Denver (CO) Post, the people of Grand Junction, Colorado are not happy:
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As an advertising creative, I’d have to say (a) I like the concept but (b) this execution of that concept misses the mark. The need to modify it to fit on city vehicles, street signs, and uniform patches reflects a lack of good design procedure. However, I wonder what else was in the 40 to 50 designs originally presented, because what ended up being produced has the definite odor of a committee. See my entry on January 15 for a similar project, a different story, and a happier ending.
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January 25, 2004
This article about new advertising media, in my hometown Sunday paper, just begged to be shared. Here’s the story, ripped from the front page of the San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I think most of this advertising is less “intrusive” and more simple background noise. And, most of it isn’t really new. Mobile billboards have been around for years – we used to call them “bootlegs.” Key quote from a provider of fruit-label advertising stickers: “I honestly don't know if mine are [effective], but I do know it is definitely less expensive [than traditional media].”

An ineffective advertising medium, at any cost, is too expensive. Ultimately, it comes down to crafting an advertising message that resonates with the person reading or viewing it, just as with mass media. The only difference, is that the opportunity may be even more targeted, which should improve creative. By the way, the last line of the article, about the sponsored hymns in church services? Back in 1979, author Jonathan Raban ran into a church in Illinois that was already doing just that (Old Glory, New York: Penguin Books, 1982. Ch. 6, p. 187-188).
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January 23, 2004
The buzz about Super Bowl ads has started, and Game Day is still more than a week away. Here’s the article, from the Arizona Daily Sun:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I guess I’m old-fashioned, but I still maintain that whether (or not) the Super Bowl is a good media buy depends on the market the advertiser is trying to reach, with what message, at what profit margin. When advertising becomes part of the entertainment, that’s fun – but is it marketing?
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January 21, 2004
Copywriter Jeff Goodby and art director Rich Silverstein of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, are inducted into the One Club Creative Hall of Fame. Here’s the story, from the San Francisco Chronicle (CA):
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What is there to add? These are two of the advertising industry’s living greats, and, thankfully, they are still at work creating wonderful, effective, daring ads that, dammit, push all of us to work a little harder.
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January 19, 2004
Interactive television is not yet widespread, yet the advertising opportunities are already looking to be unique. Here’s an article, from The Guardian (UK):
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Yes, the article is mostly about events in England, but look at some of the data points. A whopping 70% of marketing directors who have tried interactive TV believe it’s a worthwhile use of media dollars, and that survey is backed up by figures showing a high level of repeat advertisers. One interactive ad for an ordinary dishwashing detergent pulled viewers away from programming (and other ads) for an average of seven minutes. That represents an incredible opportunity to sell. Far from being the end of TV advertising, interactive TV could be just the beginning for creatives who understand both advertising and sales.
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January 15, 2004
How many people does it take to write a state slogan? About 22,000. The State of Pennsylvania ran a contest, encouraging people to “Penn a Phrase for Pennsylvania.” Here’s the article, from the Philadelphia Inquirer (PA):
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The five slogan finalists are all quite good: “Discover Our Good Nature,” “Liberty’s Landscape,” “Liberty Loves Company,” “Pursue Happiness,” and “The State of Independence.” Voting takes place online, and people can vote as often as they wish until February 13. The winner will be announced in mid-February.

Now, how is public voting on a slogan better than a committee decision? First, no single person has veto power - it would take coordination on a large scale to defeat an otherwise popular choice. Second, tweaks aren’t permitted (you can just hear some committee member mixing and matching to bring forth “Discover the Landscape of Liberty”). Third, to the extent that a committee was involved, it merely selected finalists, a much lighter responsibility than selecting a single, final slogan. All of which is why all of these slogan choices are considerably stronger than what has been produced in the past.
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January 13, 2004
Can a long-standing military insignia be trademarked for non-military applications, even if those applications include products with definite crossover, such as clothing? Well, in Britain today, the Ministry of Defense lost a court battle to retain all rights to the blue, white, and red “target” symbol that has stood for the Royal Air Force since there was a Royal Air Force. Here’s the story, from BBC News:
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It seems that, in the court’s opinion, the symbol entered the public domain in the 1960s, when it was adopted as a pop icon. One wonders whom the RAF should have sued, back then, in order to better establish their precedent. Individual shopkeepers? Fashion magazines? The entire Mod movement?
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January 12, 2004
I’ve ranted here before about the convergence of advertising and programming, and how it is identical to what happened in the early days of radio (why do you think they were called soap operas?). Now, an ad agency is considering turning a humorous ad campaign for beer into an hour-long television show. Here’s the report, from Ad Age:
Advertising copywriter blog link

It will be interesting to see how this trend plays out. I predict that, at some point, the FTC and FCC will get involved, beyond the rules that were created in response to the radio serials of some 80 years ago. Then, the advertising industry will lumber onto the next Big Thing. Also, just between you and me, I wonder whether copywriters who can’t persuade in 30 seconds will manage any better given 30 minutes.
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January 11, 2004
It’s Sunday, but this article about the upcoming Super Bowl and advertising, from Reuters, was too good to pass up:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Yes, jokes are overused in advertising - and I don’t mean humor, I mean jokes. Instead of persuading, many advertisers settle for entertaining. Their ads build up to a punchline, not a competitive edge. However, there’s also something to be said about context. The Super Bowl is a game. A great, big game. Is it any wonder that ads should capitalize on the audience’s inclination toward fun? The most-effective ads, though, will be those that go for profit as well as laughs.
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January 9, 2004
More regional branding, this time a project to brand Salem, Massachusetts. This article, from the Herald Media Company’s North Shore (Lynnfield, MA), explores two marketing experts’ conflicting opinions about what Salem stands for and what the branding should be:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Two unequal but equally opposite models might be, say, Williamsburg, Virginia vs. Santa Fe, New Mexico. One uses its history as a goldmine, the other as a launching pad; together they prove opportunities for profitable growth in both directions.

I have been part of branding assignments for cities, tourism bureaus, and regional authorities. Everything in this article rings true, from the overly broad brief, to the shoestring budget, to the multitudes involved (all seemingly invested with veto power). And, at the very core, an idea that transcends politics and transforms a place if the people just get behind it.
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January 7, 2004
An article reviewing recent developments in a multi-organizational effort to brand Scotland, from the The Scotsman. What I like about it, is that it also explores the challenges of branding a nation:
Advertising copywriter blog link

As an outsider - and this is why outside counsel is sometimes valuable - I would say that Scotland already has a brand image. The marketing problem lies, not in the brand, but in how to communicate that brand to attract tourism, industry, and investments. It’s not a matter of a logo, or a slogan, or a positioning statement. It’s a matter of communication, pure and simple. At some point, you have to move through strategy and get tactical.
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January 6, 2004
Suddenly, mixed-race or racially ambiguous people are the hot trend in advertising. Here’s the article, from the New York Times via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Yes, this trend reflects the twin realities of increasing ethnic diversity and convergence. But, here’s the trap. The widespread popularity of using “racially ambiguous” people in ads doesn’t necessarily imply their societal acceptance, any more than the widespread popularity of jazz in the 20s and 30s meant acceptance for Black men and women. When people are not people but things, like new faces in ads or new sounds in music, they often end up co-opted by the very establishment to whom they represent nascent revolution. Need proof? Just look at the photos that accompany the article. Do you notice that all the sample shots are either light-skinned people or somewhat-dark-skinned people photographed to look light-skinned? Are there really faces of color there? Or are faces of color just getting more White?
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January 5, 2004
More people talking sense about the stupidity of brand extensions in the form of product or service “bundling.” Here’s the article, from The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Ontario, Canada:
Advertising copywriter blog link

One key quote here is also a paraphrase of one of my favorite quotes from Bill Bernbach (the B in DDB): “the heart of creativity is discipline.” Too often, I see people mistake addleheadedness for creativity, a delusion which unfortunately persists right up into the boardroom.
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January 2, 2004
Gosh darn it, I’m a sucker for these end-of-year advertising reviews from all over the world. Here’s one from India, found at
Advertising copywriter blog link

What is being seen here, is part of the worldwide rise of emotional branding. That’s what lies behind the tactical use of children, dogs, and nostalgia. Emotional branding is also the driving force behind the “edgy” creative executions aimed at the ever-growing, ever-richer youth market. (My comment there is that exclusionary marketing, in which advertisers attempt to appeal to one group by offending or appearing to offend another, is not quite the same thing as target marketing, but that’s probably a subject for an entire article.)
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
6877 Barker Way
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